The most important thing you can do to help a newly sodded lawn survive and establish is properly watering. Watering requirements will vary for new sod, depending on temperatures.
Your water bill is going to increase. How much depends on how often and how long your system runs. Each head may be using 1 to 3 gallons per minute. For example, if you have a 6 zone sprinkler system that runs and 30 minutes each zone and they each have 5 heads using 2 gallons per minute each, your sprinkler system can consume 1,800 gallons of water in just one cycle. Only running the cycle once each day can consume 54,000 gallons in one month.
No pre-emergents (keeps weed seeds from germinating) should be applied to the new sod earlier than 6 months after installation. One full year is recommended. Pre-emergents have a root pruning effect that will keep your sod from growing deep roots, causing it to be more susceptible to drought. You will have to deal with more weeds the first year, but this will help the lawn to establish well and be as healthy as possible. If any herbicides are used on the lawn, the label needs to be read and followed correctly. The label is the law.
Avoid applying post-emergents (herbicide weed killers) to new sod for 2 months until the new lawn has started to establish.
Water early morning, late morning, or early afternoon. Never water at night.
Fertilize your lawn after 4-6 weeks once the new lawn has rooted. Use a starter fertilizer (18-24-12). Make sure equipment is calibrated properly. Apply at 4lbs of fertilizer per 1000 sq ft. One 50 lb bag should cover about 12,000 sq ft.
Sod should be watered immediately following installation. During the installation process, sod should be watered in as it is laid down.
Dormant Sod Installed in Winter - Even dormant sod must be irrigated to keep the root system from drying out. Water twice per week, temperatures permitting. Water during the warmest part of the day. Do not water when temperatures fall below 28 degrees.
Proper watering is the absolute most important thing to do to ensure the successful establishment of the new sod. Even missing one watering cycle or watering too little can cause dieback in the sod. It must not be allowed to dry out at all.
It is very important to keep new sod wet for at least 2-3 weeks. It takes a lot of water, especially if the weather is very hot and dry. This is a difference between keeping the lawn wet and saturating it. Do not drown the new sod. You do not want standing puddles. The top of the sod can dry out some between waterings. If you were to lift up the sod, it should be wet underneath. Follow these instructions to be sure that your new sod is watered properly.
If your new sod is laid when dormant, water only on days when not freezing. Do not let dormant sod dry out. Water 1-2 times per week when there is no rain. The root system can dry out and die if unwatered for extended periods of time. There can often be enough rainfall during the winter months that supplemental watering is not needed.
1. Water Thoroughly: Rotor zones should run for about 30-40 minutes per zone and spray zones 10-15 minutes per zone. This can vary from season to season.
2. Water Frequently: Sod areas should be watered at least 2 or 3 times daily for the first two weeks. This can vary from season to season.
3. Stop Watering: After 2-3 weeks, when your lawn seems to be very saturated and the sod is growing long, turn the sprinkler off. Let the lawn dry out for a good 1-2 days. This is usually a good time to cut the grass, while the lawn is dry and not swampy.
4. Once the grass is cut, we suggest just watering once a day, during the early morning hours. Beginning sometime after 4am and finishing before 8am is best. During this time, run rotor zones 20-30 minutes and spray zones 5-10 minutes in temperatures under 85 degrees .
5. If the yard still seems very wet, reduce run times or frequency. If there are dry areas, you may have to increase run times or frequency for zones in those areas. It may take some time to figure out exactly how much to water, but you do not want to waste water or drown your sod.
Sod Installation After Care
Water until the soil beneath is wet. Pull up pieces in several areas to insure that adequate penetration is achieved. Watering frequency and length of run time will depend on seasonal conditions. All the roots are located in the sod, so the turf is dependent on irrigation for water requirements until it can establish a root system in the soil. In hot weather, you may need to irrigate sod two or three times a day to keep the roots moist and to cool it as well. Continue watering frequently for the first two to three weeks and avoid dry soil. Once roots have established after this period, water less frequently and more deeply to encourage deep rooting. Apply an inch of water per week over two to three applications.
Cracks usually appear when sod has been allowed to dry too much. You can fill these cracks with soil to level the ground and reduce further drying out of edges. Once established, the turf will tiller outward and fill the cracks.
Do not fertilize until the sod has pegged down. Turf is under a great deal of stress because it has had greater than 90 percent of its root system removed. Fertilizer will be most efficient and effective when you apply it after roots have firmly penetrated the soil. Apply one pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet, then follow fertilizer recommendations after that. Mow the sod only once it has pegged down. Mowing too soon can pull pieces up into the deck and shred them. Mow at the proper height so that no more than ⅓ of the top growth is removed.
You can test to see how well the roots are establishing by lifting up on the corner of a piece of sod. It’s like pulling up carpet. You should feel the roots tearing up. Once the sod has fully established, you should not be able to easily pull it up. If the sod appears healthy and fully green after some time has passed after installation, you can be assured that the roots are establishing well.
Fertilization and Weed Control
Your new lawn will soon need fertilization and weed control. McBrayer Landscapes offers an excellent lawn care program and can provide you with a healthy, green, weed free lawn after installation. We have a special program we use to help the lawn establish. If you decide to do this yourself, do research and read product labels prior to making any applications. Read and follow the label directions.